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They function in vastly different markets and on very different scales, yet Bed Bath & Beyond, Microsoft, Walgreens, and Cochise Petroleum Equipment Company have at least one thing in common.

They all are debt free.

Unlike companies that have choked on their own debt, businesses such as Cochise have survived and prospered by avoiding the temptation to borrow during the boom times.

It wasn’t always this way. The Phoenix-based company once was part of the interest-paying world. Most of its debt was a result of a string of acquisitions stretching back to the late 1980s. The company had built market share and product lines by buying five separate businesses.

Although now a point of pride, becoming debt free was not originally a stated company goal. Rather, President Brent Erekson's attempt to get his personal finances in order eventually led Cochise into financial stability.

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